10 Questions With David Brookton
Artist David Brookton interviewed by Founder & Creative Director Charles Champagne.
How do you identify yourself both as an artist and as a person in the LGBTQIA+ community? Are the two exclusive to you? Why or Why not?
D: "I identify as a queer western American millennial artist. Being a gay man is innate, it comes through in my work because it comes through as who I am. Neither are exclusive, as much as I’ve tried to minimize my sexuality, assimilate to heteronormativity, it escapes. The same happens in art. I’ll think I’m creating work about one thing, and it ends up reading as something completely different to a viewer. I love that though. I think it’s important that my work reflects my identity."
C: "I totally understand that dilemma. For years I have struggled with similar obstacles when it comes to making my own art outside of the magazine. What is great though, is that it simply proves how much of ourselves we put into our art, and doesn't that make us just like all other artists out there in the world; creating as a means of identity and story telling?"
D: "So beautifully put."
What lead you to create artwork using your current medium? Was it something you've always used or something you accidentally fell into?
D: "I always wanted to use canvas and something basic like marker and watercolor. I felt that if I could take really simple supplies and make them into something so much more than they’re expected to be, that’d be achieving something beautiful.
For a long time, I was out in Hollywood trying to survive. I was depressed as fuck. Life was expensive. My boyfriend left me behind with all his bills so he could be with another dude. I was fresh out of college and all on my own. It was a lot to take in and it happened all at once.
I was taking portraits of myself, then of other people. It was kind of just for fun, I was really uncomfortable asking people for money. I ended up doing hours and hours of unpaid work. I fell behind on editing and crumbled amidst all the financial stress. I hit my tipping point when some dude came over for a date and went off on me about how he didn’t even care about me or who I was and that he literally just wanted me for sex. I never really shared that story with anyone. But literally the next day I called my landlord crying and told him I wanted out of my lease. The following 24 hours, I had a going away photo shoot session, packed up my car, stayed with some friends and drove home to Denver the following day.
I literally changed the entire course of my life in less than 48 hours. I boxed up everything, kept what I could fit in my Prius and threw the rest in a storage locker. I moved back two months later with a better sense of who I was, what I wanted and what I had done wrong."
"But I still made a ton of mistakes."
At the end of the day, I traded in my camera for some paint brushes so to speak. The reason I did that is that I can do it at my own pace. I don’t have to explain to other people when I’m behind on a painting. I don’t have to measure up to other people’s expectations of me. I just create from a really dark and ugly place within and find an incredible joy in making it into something I find beautiful."
C: "I think it is important to get as much information as possible, especially from an important turning point in your life. I love that you mentioned creating your art at your own pace while also removing the expectations of other people from your work. I think that is important in producing work of pure authenticity."
What advice would you give to struggling LGBTQIA+ artists trying to find their voice through art?
D: "My best piece of advice to any struggling LGBTQIA+ artist is first to be patient with yourself.
The journey is a marathon, not a sprint… and there are *a lot* of points at which it won’t be fun, or you’ll want out of the “art making process”. It’s inexplicably challenging at times. But here’s the second and most important piece of advice:
"Be entirely honest in everything you do. Whatever, wherever, whoever you’re talking to or whatever you're making be honest with yourself, and be honest with other people."
Truth is the single most valuable asset to any artist, especially queer artists. Our lives tend to be so intertwined with shame and guilt, we’re so used to hiding. We find ourselves in situations that there aren’t rule-books for, that we’ve had no experience or training in approaching. Often related to intimacy, we end up in the scenarios we’re too ashamed to share with people or explain because they make us uncomfortable. Sometimes we even end up in dangerous scenarios related to having strangers as intimate partners or whatever.
My best piece of advice is to be as open, vulnerable and honest as you possibly can in your life because it will read through in your work even if you’re not meaning for it to… in one way or another. This is the most valuable asset an artist or person can have, it’s what truly sets us apart and it’s the truest unique form of intellectual property we own as artists and people. Be bold, be courageous and be completely unafraid to feel vulnerable living your truth. Give yourself whatever you need when you’re sad, cookies, ice cream, bedtime… Just nap. The sun always comes up and *it* *always* *gets* *better* (which is a cliche but seriously, it’s so true)."
Were there any mentors or special instructors in your life that inspired you to pursue art?
D: "Oddly enough my third-grade art teacher. She introduced me to oil pastels. When I was in third grade I did this drawing of sunflowers that she put into an art show believe it or not. My mom loved it so much she framed it professionally and it was hanging near our kitchen for most of my life. It left a huge impression on me, I remember at a really young age after that dreaming of being a visual artist. Without saying though, my mom and dad are the most inspiring. They’re both very creative but work in super professional and unrelated fields, they live their passions outside of work and they’re very skilled art makers. My father’s background is in 'photo' and my mom's is in painting and now she works in clay. Aside from that, it’s the people who have encouraged me or supported me even through compliments throughout life. It’s so hard to forget the haters and remember the supporters, but that practice definitely keeps me going."
C: "I completely agree with being open in your life, allowing yourself to experience things in and outside of yourself. Honesty and vulnerability can be challenging for some, but personally, I have found that the two can grant quite the reward when incorporated into both your personal life and personal art making. I love that you had a supportive family when it comes to art as well as other people in your life that continue to lift you up and support you in the simplest and easiest of ways, through simple compliments and acknowledgement."
D: "I’m glad we share the same perspective How refreshing. Also, thank you! I mean, I’ve had my ups and downs with family life for sure. But at the end of the day I just remind myself they love me and care for me and I love them and care for them and yup..."
Has anyone in your life influenced the current themes and subjects you paint?
D: "I can’t really say they have. I sort of just paint the things that I’m drawn to, the things I find beautiful. A lot of contemporary art rejects art making for the sake of seeking out beauty or capturing it. I reject that. I want to be surrounded by beautiful objects that I love, so that’s why I paint them I guess."
What draws you to landscapes?
D: "Growing up surrounded by nature in Colorado and California, nature has always centered and calmed me. Part of me was lead to believe that if I painted landscapes they’d sell better. People tend to relate with landscape because it brings them the same sense of calm usually. But as a person aside from an art maker, I seek out beautiful landscapes in hiking and whatnot. It makes sense that I enjoy capturing them from that respect."
What inspired you to take on characters from Greek mythology?
D: "Ancient Greece is sort of an iconographic culture for gay men. It was a culture in which the male figure was iconized in sculpture and relationships between men were common and celebrated. I’m referencing this subject as escapism and fantasy. I’m not interested in the overtly sexual content or exploiting male figure. Greek mythology is one of my favorite historical reference points. I like to believe in the idea of Poseidon, or Zeus, or these ancient island dwelling gods and goddesses with immense powers. They were for sure the original super heroes and in this way, I’m painting them as I found them depicted through sculpture. I’m recontextualizing them through the use of color and queering them by including rainbows over their marble form."
Any themes that you have been experimenting with recently?
D: "More flowers and more feelings. Haha. I know florals are *so overplayed* in art, but I don’t care. I do this for myself and for the people I celebrate. I celebrate flowers because we’ve always admired them for centuries and centuries as humans. They’re a universal symbol of beauty, but I’m sort of not okay with this idea that we murder plants to capture their beauty only for a little while. I mean, it doesn’t deeply upset or bother me or anything, but I enjoy painting them because I can celebrate them without killing them (even though I usually reference still lives of living flowers). Idk. Canvases never wilt and I like that. Also, flowers in a way represent gayness. They’re always meant to be in textiles or wallpapers at a grandmothers house or on a mother’s bed spread. I sort of feel like I’m stealing them and in doing so, both making them masculine and queering myself."
As a queer artist, how important is it for you to continue in your art making?
D: "It’s so important that I’d rather die than stop making art. I know that sounds so dramatic and extra, but I’m totally serious. I am so devoted to this hustle that I’d rather die than stop it. The amount of rejection we deal with as artists is unreal, but at the same time, I’m so committed to this journey that I’d rather die than give up. It gives so much perspective to this pursuit. I’ve tried exploring so many entrepreneurial avenues before fine art and I didn’t even have 1/100th of the amount of passion I have for this business. It’s my dream, it’s my calling and it’s going to be the end of me I’ll be clawing the paint brushes all the way to my coffin. Lmao. That’s so fucking dark I’m so sorry…. I just mean to say, LGBT youth are at least 4 times as suicidal as straights. I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind more than enough times to pay more than my damn salary at my day job. It’s *very important* that anyone reading this understands that *everyone has a calling* even if you haven’t found it. Live. Believe. There’s something here in this world calling you that you won’t find in sleep. Anyway, that’s just my two cents. It’s so damn important for me to make art that even visions of my end wouldn’t deter me from it."
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In what ways can people support you as an artist and other LGBTQIA+ artists out there in their local communities?
D: "THIS IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT QUESTION."
D: "I was thinking about the answer to this in the shower this morning. IT IS SO *so* *SO* fucking important to realize that most artists will never be famous, but *as an artist* I think if anyone shares the same passion, they’ll totally know that passion is *nothing about that*. As artists, we give up any social prestige. We accept that we’re basically going to be poor in the thing that we care most about, and we accept the journey as the wealth. D: Anyway, THE MOST IMPORTANT WAY to support me or any other artist is to support them financially without any exception of investment but to understand that supporting artists supports the lifestyles and well being of artists. It’s about supporting artists. It’s about supporting their dream. It’s NOT about making an investment (as much as it can be one).